« February 2015
May 2015 »
The Gandalara Cycle

When I was a kid I read this fantasy trilogy called The Gandalara Cycle that I found on my sister's night stand. I remember it being awesome, so over the winter I re-read it to see if it was any good to these old eyes. Details:

The main character is an elderly American linguistics professor with terminal cancer who meets a young, beautiful Italian heiress aboard a moon-lit cruise ship. They enjoy about 7 paragraphs of witty banter and then are both killed in a meteor strike. How's that for an intro!

Our hero then awakens in the middle of a scorching desert wasteland in the body of a young swordsman. He has no idea where he is or how he got there, or how to escape the desert. After being dragged to safety by what turns out to be his giant life-bonded telepathic riding lion (yes seriously), he must decide how to live the life of the young scoundrel whose body he's taken in this medieval world of desert heat, battle cats, and mind power.

The first 200 pages are surprisingly captivating. It's fun to watch the our professorial hero guess at the details of the swordsman's life, accidentally correct some of his youthful mistakes, and figure out the fantasy world. I enjoyed reading it even though I remembered how all the mysteries come out.

But after the first 200 pages, things go downhill. In retrospect this trilogy is clearly a Young Adult Fantasy offering: long on fisticuffs and short on sex, swear words, and plausible characters. But also because of that, it's very easy to read; even slow readers could zip through the 3 book series in a few days. Overall, though, the trilogy is probably not enjoyable for an adult audience. There are many flaws, but I'll pick on just one:

To create drama and romance comprehensible to a pre-teen audience, the authors basically have all the characters quarrel like middle school children for 600 pages. Our hero is wise and level-headed when it suits the plot, but then turns inexplicably into a rash jerk to create conflict with his allies between major plot points. Kids might see their own youthful impulsiveness in this behavior, but to an adult reader it is tiresome and implausible.

Overall I recommend this book to YA readers, but not adults. There's a lot of creative ideas, lots of adventure, and a satisfying if slightly corny reveal at the end. The books also prominently feature the Loyal Animal Friendship theme, which I was largely indifferent to as an adult but remember really enjoying as a nerdy kid. It's a nice escape from the confusing roller-coaster of middle school clique membership.

But the implausible character interactions and somewhat corny plot tropes are likely a fatal turn-off for grownups.

The views expressed on this site are mine personally, and do not necessarily reflect the views of my employer.